HEALING, from anything, generally means giving yourself time to recuperate, giving the body and mind a chance to work its way back from the injury and trauma. With survivors of sexual violence, the pain they have suffered or are suffering is emotional, physical and psychological. The body has been injured and traumatised. The body and mind hold onto the memories of this trauma, making a survivors healing process very similar to individuals who have been through a war. Survivors of sexual violence suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Survivors (PTSD). PTSD manifests when an individual has experienced (whether in person or by witnessing) a scary, disturbing or harmful situation and are unable to recover after the experience. They often find themselves reliving the event, are triggered by similar smells and sounds, and are fearful at times when there is no danger evident.
Many survivors of Sexual Violence are struggling with the effects of PTSD. They find themselves struggling with whether or not things can get better, whether they are safe, whether they will be revictimised. Their homes never feel safe enough. There are scents sounds and images that vividly remind them of their trauma inflicted on them. As a survivor, you may be questioning whether things will get better, whether you will actually be able to face what you have been through. You may be wondering how hard it will be to begin healing and whether they will be supported and validated. You may be thinking that you are alone, that no one understands what you are going through. To some extent no one but you will ever truly know what you are going through, but there are people out there who will have some idea, no matter how small, how you are struggling, what you are thinking and feeling. Survivors worry what their families, friends and society will think of them. Will they be blamed for the abuse they suffered? They wonder what they did to cause this and what they could have done differently. Making the decision to begin the healing journey is never easy one because it means opening the wounds that have been sealed shut for many years, it means opening yourself up to the fact that your flashbacks and triggers will become more rampant, that all the thoughts, feelings and memories will come rushing back.
The healing journey is a necessary step; don’t let your fear paralyse you into accepting that things will not get better or that there will be nothing other than the current pain you are feeling. Beginning to heal is a scary, but it is the first step to reclaiming you, to taking your life back, to being in control of what happens next. I will not for one minute pretend this has been an easy journey for me, it has been and still is very difficult, but going back isn’t an option, nor is remaining where you are. The time will come when you feel ready to begin the journey, don’t rush or pressure yourself. You are a SURVIVOR, VICTIM, THRIVER or whatever word you chose to use to describe where you are right now. Always remember when you feel weak and out of control, remember that you survived, that it took tremendous strength but you did it.
The nature of what you are about to delve into coupled with the fact that for so long you have shut yourself off from it will leave you afraid and scared of what you are embarking on. It also means that you will be jumping in all at once; there is no-way that I can think of that will easy you into beginning healing. What I can recommend is ways to help you get through the tough times.1) Make sure you have a support system; someone who knows what you have been through and is willing to hold your hand, comfort and support you through the tough times. 2) Find ways to channel you pain and anger; maybe writing, dancing, yoga or exercising. 3) Remind yourself that the flashbacks and thoughts are in the past and can no longer hurt you. Take account of where you are; know that this is a memory and that you are no longer in that place. 4) Try some relaxation techniques – breathing, meditating to help calm you down, 5) Set your boundaries; remember this is your healing journey and you come first; don’t feel bad or guilty saying NO, or having to walk away from something or someone that is too overwhelming for you, 6) Set a safe space; pick somewhere that will help you feel safe and secure that you can retreat to when the memories become too overwhelming, 7) Remember that you were traumatised and that not only your mind was affected, your body remembers the assault. Don’t be hard on yourself for tensing up or being protective of your own body, 8) always remember that you are strong, that you have done nothing wrong, that you were a victim but you are now a taking back control. 9) Know that you are worthy of having good things happen to you, you deserve it. For those of you ready to begin healing know that you are making a very positive step. Those who aren’t quite ready don’t pressure yourself, it takes time. You will get there. As always we are here to listen and aid in whatever way we can. Feel free to contact us.
Survivors of sexual assault need a supportive environment to begin the healing process. They need to believe and feel that they are part of a culture that doesn’t support individuals who commit sexual crimes. We have to be the difference we want to see in our country. We have to be willing to start to make change. We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear, feel free to contact us. Remember that Sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them, it is something that was done to them. Survivors, Victims, Thrivers remember you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman/child/man who has suffered a trauma through no fault of your own. You are not guilty of any crime, something was done to you against your will Sexual Assault is something that happened to you, it does not define you. You are worthy of love and happiness. Always remember that you are not alone, that you have nothing to be ashamed of. We are taking the baby steps necessary to make it better for all. KNOW YOU HAVE A SAFE SPACE IN PROSAF. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us at:
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (under construction)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991(sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com